In an effort to measure the impact of COVID-19, a number of experts are turning to a measure called excessive deaths.
Excessive deaths occur when deaths during a current time period are greater than what would be expected based on an average of deaths over a previous time period.
The measure of excess deaths does not depend on identifying the cause of death, it simply reveals that deaths occurred. This approach gets past the controversy of assigning a cause and focuses on deaths related to past expectations.
For example, the CDC reported that in New York City during March 11–May 2, 2020, a total of 32,107 deaths were reported. Of these deaths, 24,172 were found to be in excess of the seasonal expected baseline.
Is there evidence of excessive deaths in Florida?
The chart below shows weekly deaths in Florida for 2018, 2019 and for the first 15 weeks of 2020 (week ending April 11, 2020). The source of the data is the CDC.
In week 15, which is highlighted below, there were 4,330 deaths reported. During the same week in 2018 there were 3,896 deaths and in 2019 there were 4,153 deaths.
Looking at cumulative deaths through week 15, there were 63,825 in 2018, 61,756 in 2019, and 64,092 in 2020.
Based on the cumulative numbers, excessive deaths in 2020 could be estimated to be 1-3%.
What about another state?
Provided below is a graph that shows the weekly deaths from 2015 to 2019 in Massachusetts compared to 2020. The graph shows that excessive deaths – as defined by the 2015-2019 trends – are being surpassed during weeks 13-15.
During week 15, excess deaths are a over 100% of what was to be expected.
The Massachusetts experience is comparable to other states in the Northeast. What is happening in Florida, related to excessive deaths, is comparable to the situation in Georgia. These numbers explain, in part, why Georgia and Florida are further along in re-opening their economies.
TR will update the data as the CDC processes more information on fatalities.